Benjamin T. King: Macabre coincidence becomes serendipity, thanks to Concord Hospital

For the Monitor
Published: 12/21/2020 6:00:52 AM

‘May U Live 2 see the Dawn,” Prince once wrote in liner notes. Remember those? Fortunately, I did live to see Dawn, after a crazy coincidence six years ago this month that ultimately became serendipity.

I had an appointment that Saturday to meet with a client named Dawn. So I begged off the Lifetime movie that captivated Meredith that Friday night, kissing her goodnight as I explained that I might be gone when she awoke in the morning. I set my alarm, turned off the light and fell fast asleep, expecting to awake to ringtones of “Jump” as the morning sun shone through the bedroom window.

No matter how bright the morning sun, or loud the alarm, I usually awake begrudgingly. I’ll clear the sleep from my eyes, roll to my side to check the time, and begin an endless series of calculations of how long I can delay the inevitable trauma of transitioning to an upright position.

Not this particular morning, or afternoon. I bolted upright in bed but was strangely restrained – and so wet? I came face to face with some guy. My eyes darted frantically around the bedroom, only to realize I was engulfed by guys, clad in the garb of medics, Concord firefighters, and Concord police officers.

“RELAX, BUDDY!!!” One of these guys (a medic) barked at me as he adjusted the IV that I realized was the cause of my restraint. “We just had to revive you. We’ve got to get you to the hospital! LET’S MOVE HIM!” Suddenly a bunch of hands lifted me from the bed onto a stretcher. I shifted to and fro in the air, as these strangers strategized how to maneuver me out of the bedroom.

“Where’s Meredith?” I croaked. Moreover, where was my voice? Ordinarily I would holler to the heavens if I awoke in the middle of the night to find an IV in my arm, surrounded by government agents intent on carting me from my bedroom. But the stentorian voice I employ in courtrooms was nowhere to be found. And it wasn’t the middle of the night, was it? Nor was it dawn. The light filtering through the windows held the gray hue of a December afternoon.

However weak my voice, Meredith heard it. To the right side of me, her small figure suddenly wedged itself between the hulking frames of two Concord firefighters carrying the stretcher.

“I’m right here, babe,” she said, tears glistening in her eyes. “I couldn’t wake you up. I called them.”

“You’re lucky she did, Buddy,” a voice called. “Your blood sugar was 16. We needed to give you Adrenalin to rouse you. Let’s move!”

I lay upon the stretcher as it banged and crashed through the narrow doors and hallways of my home till we emerged to the bitter chill of the outdoors. I remember feeling gratitude when someone slung a warm blanket over me, despite my inability at the time to fully grasp just what was going on.

As I was loaded into the ambulance, my peripheral vision alerted me to the fact that my neighbors were bearing witness to the spectacle. Perhaps the police cars, fire engine and ambulance lined up before my house had suggested to them that this wasn’t a normal Saturday at the King household? I feebly flashed them the “thumbs up” to reassure them I’d return. Meredith gently helped raise my wrist, so my optimistic signal could be seen.

Several hours later, Meredith and I sat in a room at Concord Hospital. Her halting giggles soon swelled to uproarious laughter. “What?!?” I exclaimed “We’re going to have to change the bed when we get home,” she gasped. “I dunked you with a gallon of water before I called 911. You still didn’t wake up.”

So that’s why I was so wet, I thought. “Eat your turkey sandwich!” I chortled at her, my voice coming back as I munched the sandwich the hospital had given me as part of the plan to restore my sugars to normal (in addition to the IV still protruding from my arm). I noticed the hospital had given Meredith a turkey sandwich too. “I said I’d take you to dinner tonight!” I exclaimed. “The least you could do is enjoy it.”

How we guffawed. But our mirth in the face of mortality reminded me – I’d missed my appointment with Dawn.

“You have to get my phone!” I exhorted Meredith. “I have to explain to Dawn why I missed our appointment!”

Meredith rummaged through my belongings, muttering that she guessed I had returned from my flirtations with the foreverafter. But eventually she found it. Meredith texted Dawn, explaining my absence and extending my apologies. But we heard nothing in response – that night.

The next morning found us back at home, chatting over omelets and the Sunday paper. Everything might have appeared normal to an onlooker, except perhaps for our preternatural perkiness. “Read this column, honey. Isn’t it funny?” “That’s HILARIOUS!!!” No psychologist needed be present to tell that we were forcing light, to blot out the darkness of the prior day.

Then my phone rang. “Ben?” The unfamiliar male voice at the other end of the line queried, “It’s Dawn.”

As it turned out, the caller wasn’t my client, Dawn. The caller was my client’s brother Don.

“Dawn is so sorry she couldn’t meet with you yesterday,” Don hurriedly explained before I could offer apologies of my own. “She had a heart attack. She is in the hospital.”

His voice called through the speaker on my phone, so when I hung up, I didn’t need to explain to Meredith that her boyfriend and his client had both missed a Saturday morning business meeting because both had simultaneously suffered medical crises.

Macabre coincidence turned to serendipity, though, because Dawn and I would ultimately laugh about it.

“Sorry I didn’t show up for our meeting that Saturday. I was getting carried from my house on a stretcher.”

“That’s okay, Ben. I was in full cardiac arrest at the time.”

So we both lived to see the dawn. We just had to pass through some darkness beforehand, as so often all of us must.

Dawn’s case would resolve satisfactorily, after years of litigation, but that ending was anticlimactic after the Saturday we spent separate in space yet together in terms of courting a great unknown that could easily have mooted the legal issues that brought us together.

Somebody was looking out for Dawn. Somebody was also looking out for me. She dunked me with a gallon of water and called for help when I didn’t stir.

And, of course, Dawn and I both saw the dawn with the guidance of paramedics, nurses and doctors whom we only glimpsed in moments lost to memory, if we ever saw them at all. Those paramedics, nurses, and doctors doubtless carried on saving others after they saved us, soon forgetting us just as we would soon forget them.

Certainly, no relationship other than mutual forgetting can exist between patients who rush into emergency rooms clinging to life and the health care workers who save them. Those health care workers must tend to the next emergency, while the patients saved must return to the lives they have been graced with the ability to continue living.

But, though I forget the medical providers who saved me in December 2014 (and I never knew those who saved Dawn), I will always remember them. Concord Hospital staff may receive numerous anonymous gifts this holiday season, one of which might come from me, but all of which likely amount to mere tokens of appreciation for gifts that can never be repaid.

(Benjamin T. King is a Concord resident and a partner in the Concord law firm Douglas, Leonard & Garvey, P.C.)


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